CEDAR CITY — Come with me to 17th Century Messina for Shakespeare’s ever enjoyable Much Ado about Nothing. Step into the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s Globe Theatre, and prepare to be regaled by 400-year-old jokes so fresh that you’ll laugh the night away.
As we open, Don Pedro and his men are paying a visit at the country home of Leonato. Coincidentally enough, Don Pedro just happens to have in his company two handsome young men, and Leonato just happens to have as kin two beautiful young women. Commence all-out sexual tension. For the two contrasting romances, we have the gentle and timid Hero and Claudio contra the loud-mouthed, quick-witted Beatrice and Benedick. Of course, Beatrice and Benedick are a lot more fun to watch on stage.
Now throw into the mix Don Pedro’s conniving bastard brother Don John and an uncanny constable and his watchmen, and you’ve got a perfect mix of comedy, memorable characters, and just enough villainy to make the story interesting.
Beatrice (Kymberly Mellen) and Benedick (David Ivers) were by far my favorite part of the play. Their timing and execution were flawless. To their witty banter, director B.J. Jones added hilarious blocking and slapstick. I particularly enjoyed this play’s interpretation of the scenes where Beatrice and Benedick eavesdrop on their friends’ staged conversations. Claudio (Matt Tallman), Don Pedro (Gary Neal Johnson), and Hero (Sara J. Griffin) proved that, while their characters are more mildly mannered than the volatile Beatrice and Benedick, their antics could still bring on the laughs.
The entire cast was fantastic. All the actors pulled off their roles well. I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention the fantastic roles of Dogberry (Don Burroughs), his partner Verges (Michael A. Harding), and the three watchmen (Caroline Crocker, Nick Kauffman, and Ron Thomas). They were fantastic adaptations of their characters. I was especially impressed when a gel frame (part of a lighting instrument) fell in the middle of a scene, and rather than making it an awkward moment, the watchmen stayed perfectly in character, as did Conrade (Robert Thompson Jr.) and Borachio (Michael Cotey), and used the moment to, if anything, add to the humor of the scene.
The ambiance for this play was beautiful. While the set (Troy Hemmerling) was unobtrusive, it was lovely and did the trick of transporting the audience to vineyard-strewn Sicily. I was impressed with the way the lighting (Donna Ruzika) and set worked together to create some beautiful scenes, particularly the scene at the tomb. The music (composed by Lindsay Jones) set to Shakespeare’s lyrics which are played and sung by Balthazar (Ian Durant) set the tone perfectly and added to the picturesque setting for the play.
This play was honestly a delight. As I prepared to write this review, I was grabbing at straws trying to find something to criticize. It’s one of those rare plays that is executed so well that you forget you’re watching a play – you forget to wait for a mistake because none happen – and you lose yourself in being entertained. I guess my only complaint would be that I enjoyed myself so much that the evening flew quickly by before I was ready for the play to be over.